There’s so much out there about goals and goal setting, I’m not altogether surprised to have received a few requests for a stripped-down, bare minimum approach. Something easy to remember, easy to apply – and yet still helps create outstanding goals.
Here’s what I’ve come-up with: The 3 Cs of Great Goal Setting. And no surprise to anyone who’s read even just a couple of my posts: I’ve taken a brain-based approach.
- Choose your thinking.
- Connect with the vision.
- Criteria, applied consistently.
And just for the avoidance of doubt: this process is not intended just for the “big” goals. My hope is you might apply it to any goal or objective – even those we might objectively describe as modest.
So, have a read. And let me know if I’ve achieved my goal of a simple, but effective strategy for setting great goals.
#1 CHOOSE your thinking
Our brain has different circuits for different types of thinking. And those circuits are mutually exclusive: we can only do one type of thinking at once.
This is why we’re always talking about the benefits of mono-tasking rather than multi-tasking. Our brains haven’t yet evolved the capacity to perform two completely different cognitive processes simultaneously. And the rapid switching between circuits (the illusion of multitasking) comes with an associated cost: in energy to make the switch; and in quality of thought, where our brains don’t quite pick-up where we left off in recommencing that previous cognitive process. So it’s most efficient to do one type of thinking.
Goal Setting lives in the domain of “Vision Thinking”: the top-level of thinking types. Vision thinking is about direction, purpose and value. It’s not detailed, but broad and emotive. It’s about destination, rather than journey.
So the first step is to put your “vision thinking hat” on and consciously select vision thinking. There will be plenty of time to figure-out plans and actions later. Right now is a chance for you to get really expansive in the thinking about your goal.
#2 CONNECT with the vision
Having consciously told our unconscious mind that it’s time for vision thinking, the next step is to connect deeply with our vision.
When we really connect with our goal and are able to paint a vivid picture of the outcome in our minds, we’re effectively starting to teach our brain to achieve it. The richness we give to our goal generates new connections, leads us to keen insights and gets us highly motivated. All fantastic ingredients to the process.
So remembering that this is moment is about expansive, visionary thinking: let’s fast-forward to a near-future in which you’ve achieved your goal; and let’s ask ourselves some vision-connecting questions:
- What’s my vision for this area? What do I see as possible?
- What do I see around me? What do I hear? How do I feel?
- What has this gotten me? And what else will this lead to?
- What is most different, now I’ve achieved my goal?
- What’s “The One Big Thing” that tells me I’ve achieved my goal?
When you’re ready, challenge yourself to pull together the essence of all your thinking and insight into a single sentence. Play around with the words – and you’ll know when you’ve captured your goal statement. It’ll “click” with you.
#3 CRITERIA, applied consistently
Checking the well-formedness of your goal is a crucial step in the process – if you’re going to have a reasonable chance of achieving it. By running our goal through some key criteria checks, we bring it back into the “real” world.
There are plenty of catchy mnemonics out there for criteria: for example, SMART (which you’ll know), PURE (Positively stated, Understood, Relevant, Ethical) and CLEAR (Challenging, Legal, Environmentally-sound*, Appropriate, Recorded).
* I prefer “ecologically-sound” in my version of CLEAR goals.
My challenge, however, was to keep this simple. Which is why my process insists on such diligent vision thinking – because that ensures we satisfy 90% of our criteria. It’s specific, it has a measure, we have a future timeline and so on.
The only criteria question I think you need from here is:
- When you say your goal sentence, does it create the vision for you?
If not, let’s go back and revisit Step 2 and re-connect with your vision.
But if and when it does, that tells me you’ve got an inspiring goal that you fully connect with. And even if it’s not a “big” goal, it has meaning for you. Well-formedness will naturally flow from there.
And into action
A process on goal-setting wouldn’t be complete without a note on getting into action. So keep it simple and choose a single small action: to commit to right now; and to action today.
Everything starts with Action #1.